It is not often that a club publicly admits that they are facing financial difficulties and that they just need help. But that is what the Coventry Blaze’s Monday morning press release stated. What makes this news more distressing is that Blaze have been one of the most successful teams during the EIHL period even winning 4 league titles and have been considered some what of a role model on how to build a club up to be successful and on a budget.
The Coventry Blaze are keen to stress that they are not in any immediate danger but do seem to be very keen to get their recovery underway now if they can help it before the problems get any deeper. It also appears that their plans for next season could also change if there isn’t a change in the bank balance.
It is a bitter blow for the Elite League who will not be happy to see one of their flagship sides struggle and is a situation that could have massive effects on the how the league and it’s teams operate in the future.
In the immediate future of course the concern is for the Coventry Blaze and keeping them alive. This has already started with the exit of Luke Fulgham last week but by shedding players the Blaze do risk losing their fans and with it a lot of revenue. Although attendance fixtures are not easy to find there has been some disgruntlement around the forums at the attendances already this season with the team struggling by their standards and this would only get worse.
The other immediate danger with this situation is for the Hull Stingrays who are the sister organisation of the Coventry Blaze. That is to say that they share the same parent company and surely if one goes then the other will follow. Although both clubs are ran independent both do require some backing from the parent company.
Looking a bit more long term becomes more difficult as it is not likely to become clear any time soon as to how deep these money woes go. There are number of possibilities though. One is that the Coventry Blaze drop out of the Elite League leaving the league with nine teams is difficult but it would be possible. What would be more difficult is to where they would go as the EPL already has 10 teams and unless Telford drop down out it would almost impossible to run with 11 teams. However I do not expect to this happen.
I would expect that Coventry Blaze will get out of this hole after all they have a good successful recent history, a good arena, a large catchment area, good internal structure and little competition from other sports making it a good investment for big company. That company just needs to brought onboard in the right way.
What I would hope is that this news brings to the attention of the big money teams in Nottingham, Sheffield and Belfast that money problems can affect any club no matter how stable they appear and that changes in the way teams operate with money need to be brought in. And those changes should include a transparent wage cap. After all this is not side that is at the bottom of the league and who it seems to have an almost constant financial problem.
The end result I hope is that the Coventry Blaze are save but that this episode does bring about a change in the way the Elite League operates to create more stable sides and create more growth leading to expansion.